Issue Guide: Adapting evaluation to serve the developmental needs of a newly funded multidisciplinary research center

Federal agencies fund research centers on a variety of topics, and an evaluation component is normally required. The Southeastern Coastal Center for Agricultural Health and Safety (SCCAHS) is working to define the vital role evaluation serves for federally-funded centers, including the SCCAHS which is a center that houses six multidisciplinary research projects, 10 pilot projects and serves a multi-state region. 

The role of an evaluation program is usually to emphasize accountability, especially in the case of federal agencies that need to demonstrate that the activities facilitated by their programs are meeting stakeholder interests and that their programs are achieving desired impacts.

“The purpose of this project was to describe the important role that an evaluation program can have in a complex center that has many moving parts,” said Sebastian Galindo, research associate professor in the Department of Agricultural Education and Communication at the University of Florida and director of the Evaluation Core at SCCAHS.

A developmental evaluation framework was used to respond to the complex environment surrounding agricultural health and safety in the Southeast. This approach aimed to (1) engage external stakeholders in guiding the center’s research and outreach trajectories; (2) support center research teams in a co-creation process to develop logic models and tailored indicators; and (3) provide timely feedback within the center to address communications gaps identified by the evaluation program.

This study outlines the approach taken by the SCCAHS’s evaluation program to synthesize the different projects within the center by connecting project-level goals to the overarching center goals, facilitating collaborations and encouraging communication with internal and external stakeholders, and incorporating stakeholder needs and insights into center projects.

“We wanted to communicate the importance of evaluation, and give others a new perspective of evaluation,” Galindo said. “A good evaluation program can play a key function in any program.”

Learn more by downloading the latest SCCAHS issue guide:

The information in this issue guide was adapted from the following journal article:

Mitchell, R.C., Israel, G.D., Diehl, D.C., & Galindo- Gonzalez, S. (2020). From plan to action: Adapting evaluation to serve the developmental needs of a newly-funded multidisciplinary research center. Evaluation and Program Planning, 78, 101729. PMID: 31698318 DOI: 10.1016/j.evalprogplan.2019.101729

The Southeastern Coastal Center for Agricultural Health and Safety (SCCAHS) is part of a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) / National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Agricultural Health and Safety Initiative. SCCAHS explores and addresses the occupational safety and health needs of people working in agriculture, fishing, and forestry in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico.